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Feds deem driver in bicyclists’ deaths ‘imminent hazard’

A box truck driver authorities said was high on methamphetamine when he plowed into a group of bicyclists near Searchlight, killing five, has been deemed “an imminent hazard to public safety” by a federal agency.

Authorities say Jordan Barson, 45, had nine times the amount of methamphetamine in his system needed to be legally considered impaired at the time of the Dec. 10 crash on U.S. Highway 95, authorities have said.

He faces five counts of DUI resulting in death, two counts of DUI resulting in substantial bodily harm and seven counts of reckless driving, court records show.

Barson had been scheduled to make his initial court appearance Wednesday, Dec. 30, but it was postponed for a second time until Monday, Jan. 4, because he remained in quarantine.

The state has filed a motion to set Barson’s bail at $1 million and establish conditions for his release if bail was posted, which also was continued until Monday.

Killed in the crash were Las Vegas bicyclists Erin Michelle Ray, 39; Gerrard Suarez Nieva, 41; Michael Todd Murray, 57; Aksoy Ahmet, 48; and Tom Trauger, 57. Four others were injured, most seriously Jerome Ducrocq, who remained hospitalized in critical condition last week.

The bicyclists were with a group of about 20 who set out from Henderson to complete the roughly 130-mile Nipton Loop. All of the bicyclists who were killed or injured were seeking cover from the wind and riding behind the group’s safety escort vehicle when the box truck Barson was driving crashed into them, according to a Nevada Highway Patrol report.

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration said this week that Barson has been deemed “an imminent hazard to public safety” by the agency. A statement from the agency said that Barson had been served with a federal order Dec. 23 barring him from operating any commercial motor vehicle in interstate commerce. Barson holds a commercial driver’s license and was employed by RoadRunner Transport AZ Inc. of Lake Havasu City, Arizona.

The agency said it appears Barson and the transport company were not following federal regulations for transportation using commercial motor vehicles at the time of the crash.

“A subsequent investigation of RoadRunner Transport AZ Inc., found that neither the carrier nor Barson maintained drivers’ records-of-duty status as required by federal regulations,” the agency said in a statement. “FMCSA’s imminent hazard out-of-service order states that Barson’s ‘blatant violations of the federal safety regulations and ongoing and repeated disregard for the safety of the motoring public … substantially increases the likelihood of serious injury or death to you and (the) motoring public.’”

The agency said Barson and RoadRunner Transport “may be subject to a civil penalty enforcement proceedings brought by FMCSA for violations of the Agency’s safety regulations.”

A message left at a phone number listed in federal records for RoadRunner Transport was not immediately returned Wednesday, Dec. 30.

Boulder City Review Editor Hali Bernstein Saylor contributed to this report.

Contact David Ferrara at dferrara@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-1039. Follow @randompoker on Twitter. Contact Glenn Puit by email at gpuit@reviewjournal.com. Follow @GlennatRJ on Twitter.

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